WILKES-BARRE – A Luzerne County judge is weighing a request by prosecutors to use a 21-year-old conviction against an 80-year-old woman accused of poisoning her son's girlfriend with antifreeze.
Judge Fred Pierantoni III continued the December trial of Helen Galli of Wyoming until he decides if her 1991 guilty plea to persuading two granddaughters to start a fire on May 7, 1990 at the Plains Township residence of her daughter-in-law, Ruth Ann Galli, can be entered as evidence. Ruth Ann Galli was married to another son, Frank.
Helen Galli was accused of supplying the girls with kerosene used to start the fire. She was sentenced to 10 years probation on charges of arson, corruption of minors and criminal conspiracy.
In the current case, Galli is facing a trial on charges of aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment.
Investigators allege in arrest records she put antifreeze in juice that was consumed by Dawn Simyan, 42, on March 31, 2010. Simyan was dating Galli's son Victor at the time.
Assistant District Attorney Frank McCabe said Helen Galli intentionally poisoned Simyan because she did not want the younger woman to come between her and Victor. Simyan suffered ethylene glycol poisoning that led to acute kidney failure, investigators said in arrest records.
At a hearing on Friday, Ruth Ann Galli was compelled to recall the fire in 1990. She said her marriage to Frank Galli ended and he moved out.
Upon questioning from McCabe, Ruth Ann Galli said the fire was set because Helen Galli wanted my insurance policy, my pension and my children.
Ruth Ann Galli said her life insurance policy, in an amount she was unable to recall, named Victor Galli as the beneficiary.
On cross-examination by Helen Galli's attorney, Joseph Sklarosky Sr., Ruth Ann Galli said Helen Galli helped her when her marriage to Frank soured.
As a prosecution witness, Michelle Chmelewski testified Helen Galli baked and delivered cookies when she moved next to her on East Seventh Street, Wyoming in 2010.
I really thought she was a nice woman, Chmelewski said.
But Chmelewski said that shortly after meeting her, Helen Galli unsuccessfully tried to persuade her to participate in the alleged plot to poison Simyan.
Pierantoni said he will decide at a later date if prosecutors can use the 1991 conviction against Galli.